An Insider’s Guide to South Shore Bar Pizza: A Regional Massachusetts Phenomenon Goes Mainstream

It's crispy, it’s cheesy, and it’s a cult-favorite with a die-hard fan base and a culture all its own. Here, an insider’s guide to the legendary bar-pizza veteran joints and all the trendy newbies, including unassuming taverns and flashy new food trucks slinging supreme pies.

The slice is right: a pepperoni pie from Cape Cod Café. / Photo by Nina Gallant / Styling by Madison Trapkin

On a frigid February evening in Randolph, all is quiet. At least, all is quiet as I stroll across a dark parking lot outside an American Veterans post tucked down a small lane, illuminated only by the full moon.

The noise level inside AMVETS Post 51, a three-story white wooden farmhouse that was purchased by the veterans organization in 1959, is a completely different story. Even before I enter, I can hear the merry sounds of Saturday-night life inside: loud chattering around the bar, the cracking of balls on the pool table, the tuneless guitaring of a band warming up. I pull open a side door under a sign that says, “Lounge Entrance.” This veterans post is open to the public, in part because of what I find beyond the front door.

“World Famous Hoey’s Pizza,” reads the hand-drawn poster in a snug, wood-paneled entryway. There’s an illustration of a jolly-looking fella with a beard, one hand holding a steaming box labeled “pizzaahh” and the other flashing a peace sign beside a big green shamrock. Before me stands a teenager in a red-sauce-spotted white apron, taking customer orders and making change through a cutout window in the wall; in the kitchen behind him, a few others buzz around, sprinkling shredded cheese on uncooked pies or retrieving finished products from stainless-steel deck ovens. They’re being supervised by a man with a gray goatee who could be the older version of the man on the sign.

My mouth, Pavlovian, drools.

I first discovered this place about three years ago, when I briefly lived just a few miles away. I’d heard whisperings that nearby was a hugely popular pizza joint housed, seemingly at random, inside a veterans hall, and that it served up some of the tastiest dang pies in the 781 area code—or anywhere in Massachusetts, for that matter. It is, or so I was told, one of the greatest examples of “South Shore bar pizza,” a style so named because it was born decades ago in the blue-collar watering holes below Boston. I paid my first visit to Hoey’s soon after, and it lived up to the hype. From then on, picking up a pizza from them became my weekly tradition.

Tonight, I’m making an overdue visit back from my new home in Rhode Island, where I haven’t been able to satisfy my appetite for bar pies, which are sort of like snowflakes: They’re all made of the same few things, yet no two are exactly alike. As I saddle up to a corner stool with an $8 cheese pizza and a $5 glass of whiskey, I am reminded why so many consider this one the platonic ideal: the 10-inch crust, sized for one hungry customer, is cracker-thin and super crispy. Its underside has a glorious golden fry, and the cheese and sauce, which are spread to the outermost edge to kiss the oily pan, form a caramelized ring of black lace around the whole thing. “Burnt edges” are the ultimate hallmark of South Shore ’za.

The place itself, meanwhile, has all the local color one might hope for. There are a couple of grizzled old men wearing scally caps pinned with military medals, eating quietly. A loud and cheery crew of twenty-somethings stand around barking heavy “R”-less accents, pool cues and beer bottles in hand. Middle-aged folks mill about on the dance floor in the adjoining room, waiting for the first few real chords from the band, and there’s a steady flow of takeout customers popping by to hand over green money in exchange for brown boxes with hot deliciousness inside.

Similar scenes, I imagine, are playing out tonight at bar-pizza joints all over the South Shore, where folks can get very passionate—borderline obsessed—with these cheap eats, not to mention the typically dive-y digs in which you find them and the frequently colorful personalities that make them. “These are hard-core, working-class communities, and they’re proud of it,” says Quincy native Kerry Byrne, a former Boston Herald food writer and the man behind South Shore Bar Pizza Social Club, a 65,000-member Facebook group where fans post pie porn, raves, and rants as they eat their way across the region.

For many, it seems, bar pie is more than mere pizza: It’s a culinary symbol, on par with an iced Dunks, representing the South Shore’s proletarian spirit. “It’s a culture without pretension,” Byrne explains. “We don’t want a fucking Neapolitan. Maybe when we go to the North End. But when we go to a local bar, and we’re drinking Budweiser and watching the fucking Bruins, we want a fucking bar pizza. We want American cheddar on a fucking piece of dough, and we want to stuff it down our pie holes.”

Lately, though, so does everybody else. Over the past few years, passion for South Shore–style bar pizza has exploded beyond its borders. Those who grew up with it have been opening more-polished-looking restaurants around Massachusetts and the country. Heck, you can even buy bar pies at Walmart now. And as the gospel spreads, it’s been sending the newly devout on destination-dining trips to holy lands like Hoey’s, after which they document their taste tests and debate bar-pizza power rankings, often with disarming fervor, all over social media.

What is it that explains the cult appeal of such unabashedly un-fancy pizza? Bar pies are delicious, but there must be more to it. How did a variation on something as pedestrian as a personal pan pizza become such a local, and now national, phenomenon? Why is a food that’s been around for nearly 80 years suddenly on everyone’s lips right now?

I decided it was time to hit the road for answers, and for a slice of South Shore life.

The bean special and a cheese pizza at the Lynwood Café in Randolph. / Photo by Nina Gallant / Styling by Madison Trapkin

It’s about 6:45 p.m. on March 14. That’s Pi Day to math geeks—or pie day to observant food nerds like me. The warm pan of a setting sun casts a smoldering glow over my drive through suburbia as I nervously put the pedal to the metal; after all, I have only 15 minutes left to make it to one of the most chattered-about pizza spots in the Bay State.

I turn my car down yet another quiet residential street in Bridgewater, where American flags wave proudly from front-porch flagpoles, and slip into the driveway of a ranch-style home. It doesn’t look much different from its neighbors—except, that is, for the small neon sign in one window that beams the word “PIZZA,” and the round metal pie pans that hang like wind chimes from the mailbox.

This is J’s Flying Pizza, a takeout-only operation that has been inside the unassuming residence of the Yannone family since the ’70s. In my conversations with those who love to make and eat bar pie, it’s been said over and over again that these pizzas are a cornerstone to the legacies of dozens of businesses across the South Shore. Some of the most popular places have been passed down to second-, third-, or even fourth-generation operators—sons, mostly, who learned to make pies at their father’s apron strings. Like learning to shave or change a tire.

Stephen Yannone is one of them. He and his four siblings grew up in front of the electric pizza ovens inside the family home’s garage-like annex, where today I step inside with ATM-fresh bills in hand (J’s is cash-only) to pick up my order of a single cheese pie. Yannone is in the middle of assembling one of his clan’s famous pizzas—ladling tomato sauce from a big plastic utility pail onto dough, sprinkling a heavy snow of cheddar cheese—atop a long, stainless-steel counter with Old Glory on its front. He’s been doing this since he was eight years old, he tells me. And when I hatch open the oil-stained pizza box back in my car and sink my teeth into the first generously sauced, perfectly crisped slice, it is abundantly clear that practice made perfect.

Which clan, though, built the very first bar pie? The origins are murky, but if you ask around, you’ll find that local lore generally points to the Jamoulis family at Cape Cod Café in Brockton, which opened in 1939 along the then-main route to Massachusetts’ vacationland. The place didn’t start serving pizzas, though, until WWII vet E. James “Papa” Jamoulis and his then-associate, Nick Nickolaow purchased the joint in 1947. They wanted something simple and inexpensive to feed the laborers who descended on the bar after a long workday at one of the industrial city’s factories, and thus, the bar pie was born. It somewhat resembled Greek-American pizza, another New England–rooted substyle typified by crusts lightly fried in well-oiled metal pans. The Cape Cod Café’s personal-size spins were first baked in repurposed waitress trays, according to Jonathan Jamoulis, Papa’s grandson.

Today, Jonathan and his brother Jeremy run four locations and a frozen-pizza brand. The family biz has certainly grown, but they and they alone still personally measure out the secret spice mix for the sauce. “We wouldn’t fly on the same plane,” Jamoulis tells me with a laugh as I nosh a pie in a corner booth.

As various families perfected their own recipes and as cooks carried their trade secrets from kitchen to kitchen, these simple pies, perfect for slugging back with a beer, became ubiquitous post-shift meals throughout the so-called Irish Riviera of Boston’s South Shore. It was great takeout to feed a hungry family on the cheap, too—hence why the region is still peppered with bar-pie joints today. You’ll find them in Quincy and Weymouth, Plymouth and Pembroke, Stoughton and Easton, and frequently other towns that, like the pizza’s purported birthplace at “the Cod” in Brockton, have no actual shoreline to speak of. But there’s a “cultural definition” of the South Shore that’s not strictly referring to geography, as Byrne explains it, and pizza is the language that unites.

In other words, everybody in the area speaks bar pie, and everybody has a hometown spot they vociferously defend as the best of the bunch. It’s a place, most likely, where nothing has changed since childhood—not the pizza recipe, certainly, or the vinyl booths, Formica tabletops, and crowds. That these places are frozen in amber from an earlier, simpler time is a huge part of the appeal.

Indeed, part of the fun is ensuring the nostalgia persists, and making sure the taste and feel remains the exact same as when a guest first discovered your restaurant, says Stephan Campanella, owner of the Lynwood Café in Randolph, when I meet him there on a Saturday afternoon, sitting on a small bench outside the separate takeout entrance. The Lynwood, a quintessentially suburban street-corner pizza place, has been heralded as a bar-pie pioneer since Campanella’s great-grandparents, Lithuanian immigrants, introduced pizza to the menu after buying the restaurant in 1949. Today, the parking lot is overflowing—cars line the street—and the retro dining booths and barstools are jam-packed with generations of regulars scarfing slices and browsing the jukebox. “It’s a meeting place” where you’re likely to bump into half a dozen old neighbors every time you walk through the door, he says.

Increasingly, though, he acknowledges, the regulars are joined by pizza-seeking interlopers coming from all over. What set in motion the current bar-pie boom? It started, appropriately enough, with a little too much booze.

The Cove—sliced linguica with pickled banana peppers—at Sidedoor Sally’s in Beverly. / Photo by Nina Gallant / Styling by Madison Trapkin

Castle Island Brewery in South Boston is bright. It’s new. It’s slick. The craft-beer-sipping crowds are young, and everyone looks like they work in tech, marketing, or pharma (how else could you be in your twenties and afford to live in Southie nowadays?).

It’s very different, in other words, from the long-in-the-tooth, working-class watering holes where bar pizza was born. Yet the brewery’s freshly scrubbed faces certainly love stuffing themselves with the pies from Bardo’s, the in-house bar-pizza operation run by the fourth generation of the Lombardo family, whose eponymous events facility in Randolph—famous for its two-story crystal chandelier—was a place nearly every South Shore denizen danced at a wedding, prom, or bar mitzvah over the years.

When Castle Island came calling in 2021, looking for a bar-pizza partner to fill its new brewery with pies, scion David Lombardo and his crew took a crash course in the style, munching their way across the classic spots, and developed a recipe they could take to urban craft-beer crowds who are curious about bar pies but might, frankly, feel intimidated stepping into the territory of grizzled labor union bosses who haven’t left their barstool since the ’70s. “We saw it as an opportunity to introduce this style of pizza we fell in love with to a whole new, younger demographic that hadn’t yet found their loyal spot,” Lombardo says. “And what better demographic to introduce pizza to than the kids in Southie?”

Bardo’s has been a big success, and it even spawned a mobile pizza trailer that parks at the brewery’s Norwood location when it’s not at special events. It’s just one of a flurry of new bar-pie businesses to crop up outside the South Shore over the past few years. Ask pie fans to explain the sudden surge of interest, and they’ll almost unanimously point to a Facebook post from none other than Kerry Byrne. It was late February 2020, and the first few cases of COVID-19 were being reported in Boston. Although the state had yet to place restrictions on indoor dining, Byrne, then working as a restaurant consultant, saw trouble coming: mom-and-pop restaurants, he realized, were about to get “fucked.”

He was particularly worried about the future of family-owned bar-pizza spots. For one thing, like every other working-class kid in Quincy, Byrne was raised on pies as a weekly takeout treat, and none of the fancy food he dined on as a journo could ever compete for that space in his heart. More important, though, Byrne saw bar pizza as a symbol of South Shore culture, its blue-collar values, and all the blood, sweat, tears, and tomato sauce that the folks he grew up with—the pizza cooks and their customers—poured into their essential work. “These are the firefighters, the cops, the plumbers,” Byrne says. “The people who keep this world running.”

So Byrne, admittedly half-cocked while watching a Liverpool soccer game, logged onto Facebook and launched the South Shore Bar Pizza Social Club. His goal? To celebrate the region’s family-owned bar-pizza places and send them business by sharing reviews and encouraging chatter. Within a matter of hours, nearly 2,000 people had joined. Today, it has more members than most South Shore towns have residents. “It became something I never anticipated,” he says.

What followed was “a huge boom” of new attention, orders, and visitors, says Campanella of Lynwood Café. With sit-down restaurants shuttered, pizza nerds were suddenly road-tripping for takeout with a side of cultural anthropology. Dedicated Instagram accounts (@ssbarpizza is a popular one) popped up. Some newly self-anointed bar-pizza critics even started posting their pizza takes on YouTube in a style similar to Barstool Sports presidente Dave Portnoy, whose “One Bite Pizza Reviews,” a series of clips that sometimes garner more than a million views apiece, first kicked off with a trip to Town Spa Pizza, a bar-pie mecca in Stoughton. Suddenly, these joints weren’t just for locals. They were destination-worthy.

These days, in fact, there are more than 100 (and counting) establishments pinned to the interactive map on the website Everything South Shore Bar Pizza (, a number of which are handily sorted into different pizza-crawl routes: “The Route 24 Tour,” “The Pilgrim Highway Tour,” “The Beach Hopper Tour,” to name a few. The site has received more than one million visitors since 2020, says creator John Menton—quite a surprise given that the West Bridgewater construction supervisor launched it during the stay-at-home, bake-at-home days of the COVID shutdown simply to share a bar-pizza recipe he’d perfected through trial and error.

Now, Menton sells quirky bar-pizza-inspired merchandise to customers across the United States, from pie-face wall clocks to flip-flops and swim shorts covered in the same 1980s tabletop pattern you’ll find at vintage establishments like the Lynwood. There are plenty of T-shirts, of course, although some of them have little to do with pies and more to do with a sort of bro culture that has sprung up around them (see: a black shirt that says “Bar Pizza” accompanied by, of all things, a cartoon eagle with a redneck’s mullet, wearing an American flag as a bandanna).

That’s the thing, I’ve come to realize, about people’s love for bar pizza: It is its own kind of patriotism, whether you’re pledging allegiance to the place where you grew up getting takeout or evangelizing the appeal of the pie—and the working-class values it represents—wherever you go. And some are going far: South Shore bar pizza has recently arrived in places like Tampa, Florida; Naples, Maine; and Boulder County, Colorado, where South Shore expat Todd Mead rolls around his lumbering food truck, Massively Wholehearted Pizza, covered in colorful graffiti that highlights certain letters so “Mass Hole Pizza” stands out.

Then there’s Bill Whittaker, a South Shore native who, with his wife Nikki, opened NB’s Wicked Bah Pizza in south-central Texas in 2022. They moved to the Lone Star state for the different political climate, he says. In return, they introduced the locals to two things: “wicked” as a compliment (something that initially didn’t go over well in the Bible belt, he concedes), and a style of pizza that his new neighbors told him was like nothing they’d ever had. “People come in to try it,” he says, “and then they love it.”

At the same time, because it’s situated close to one of the country’s largest water parks, NB’s has also become a beacon for Bay State tourists and expats craving a taste of home. “So many people that grew up in Massachusetts come and say, ‘We’re so glad you guys opened. This is what we grew up on, and we can’t find it.’”

When you’re hundreds of miles from home, it’ll do. But if you ask Byrne, nothing compares to a bar pie in its native habitat. “If I’m gonna drink Champagne in France, I’m going to fucking Champagne,” he says. “That doesn’t mean I can’t try to make great Champagne on my own. But it’s not the same.”

Where else could a pizza like this be born but on the South Shore? It is, after all, the perfect expression of the native terroir. “It’s not fancy,” Byrne says of bar pie, “but it has character.”

Photo by Nina Gallant

How to Speak Bar Pie

A few trusty terms for getting fluent in the language of the South Shore.

“The Cod”

Boomer (mainly) shorthand for the one, the only, Cape Cod Café—originator (probably?) of the bar pie and, thus, a sort of Mecca for South Shore pizza tourists.

“Pig and Pine”

Regulars’ slang for ordering a ham- and pineapple-topped pizza at the Cape Cod Café, according to co-owner Jonathan Jamoulis. Luau in Brockton tonight, anyone?

Burnt Edges

What some places (like Town Spa Pizza) call the purposely blackened perimeter of the crust. What some people call “the best part.”


How other places (like Lynwood Café) refer to the purposely blackened perimeter of the crust. Learn and respect the local language. Or else, noogies.


An acronym, popular among Very Online bar-pie fans, for “Not Bar Pizza.” Used to derisively dismiss an imposter (“No chedda’? NBP.”) or, alternatively, as a trigger warning for an off-topic post. (“NBP, but: anybody know a good Neapolitan joint?”)


Unit of measurement for expressing the relative limpness of a slice of bar pie. (“Solid slice, barely any flop.” No flop = perfect. High flop = NBP.)

Photo by Nina Gallant

Anatomy of a Bar Pie

A breakdown of the most characteristic components.


It’s gotta be uniformly thin, firm, and cracker-like, pan-baked in an electric oven with a golden undercarriage lightly fried from oil (corn or cottonseed oils are key picks, say some pie geeks).


Simple and straightforward, whether homemade or (often) doctored up from a can. If you can find it under the blanket of cheese.

Paper Bag

Pizza boxes aren’t exactly verboten, but bar-pie purists prefer the old-school container: a (grease-stained) brown paper bag pulled over a pizza that’s protectively sandwiched between two paper plates.


Cheddar is mandatory, though some spots may, ahem, cut the cheese with their own signature blend. Either way, it’s spread to the edge.


They’re extra crispy, especially if ordered “laced” or “burnt,” which calls for extra sauce along the pan-crust crevice so that the hot metal yields a crunchy, caramelized outer ring.


10 inches, steel, and probably procured from local legend Bobby Owens at Bay State Restaurant Products in Brockton, the go-to bar-pizza-pan provider on the South Shore.

First published in the print edition of the May 2024 issue with the headline, “How Do You Say Pizza on the South Shore? Bar Pie! ”